Diamond Hunting in Arkansas at the Crater of Diamonds State Park

Diamond Hunting in Arkansas at the Crater of Diamonds State Park

The Crater of Diamonds Park is located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. A small town with a big heart. Over the past few years, I have been wanting to travel more in the United States. Yes, I love international travel, but there is something about road tripping. I did it as a kid a lot with my family but as an adult not-so-much.

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A Peek into California's Central Coast ~ Paso Robles

A Peek into California's Central Coast ~ Paso Robles

Wine country. What is your first thought? California. Napa. Sonoma. Right? Yes, I can feel the head nods now. California has great wine destinations other than the two mentioned. Don’t get me wrong. They are great. They helped pioneer the way we buy wine in America. But, they paved the way to other great California discoveries. One of my favorites is Paso Robles. Paso is located on California’s Central Coast. It’s an easy drive from Los Angeles to its wine areas.

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Travel Diary: Napa River Inn

Travel Diary: Napa River Inn

Napa Valley. Those two words make wine people very happy. Vineyards, trellis, food, grapes, hills, and don’t forget the wine. Downtown Napa is going through a revival and it is great to witness. The Napa River Inn located at the historic Napa Mill is a quaint and intimate hotel with is in walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the famous Oxbow Public Market.

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Travel Radar: Paris Cocktail Week

Paris Cocktail Week

Who knew Paris had a cocktail week? Paris Cocktail Week starts Saturday and I am so excited. Although I am not able to attend, I am so glad to not be in D.C. during the joke of a weekend. The City of Lights is known for many things and I’m excited to see what bartenders and mixologists come up with for the week. This is definitely on my radar for 2018. My favorite wine bar in Paris, Lavinia, is participating and I can’t wait to stalk their Instagram to see what they create for the occasion.

Savannah: Where to Eat, What to Do, and Where to Slumber

Savannah: Where to Eat, What to Do, and Where to Slumber

Savannah doesn’t always get its do. It’s a city that deserves repeat visits to discover the city, the culture, the food, and yourself. The city goes beyond quaint and charming. Yes, it is both of those, but it’s also hip and at times eclectic. Like many cities, the fun happiest in downtown and on my next visit I plan to explore the outskirts to see what that area has going on as well. 

My home base was The Marshall House considered one of the best historic homes in the U.S. It’s part of the historic homes of Savannah and due to the location is a perfect place to stay and explore historic Savannah. The city is known for their historic bed and breakfasts homes and with the influx of new hotels from Andaz and Kimpton, the city is definitely changing.

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To Savannah: A Love Letter

Savannah, Georgia

I didn’t plan to fall in love with Savannah. I had always wanted to visit, but it was somewhere over there, on a travel list far away. It was on the list, but it wasn’t high on the list. Foolish girl. Savannah, I love you.

I arrived in Savannah on a direct flight from Baltimore on Allegiant Air. I don’t normally travel on budget airlines, but the Allegiant flight surprised me. The staff was great, plane clean, and for someone who hates to fly - a decent flight. Savannah is only an hour and a half flight from me and now there is no reason I can’t visit more often. When I visited, Savannah was recovering from a hurricane and although there was debris in many of the streets and squares the city was up and running. Their resilience and pride were evident in every shop, restaurant, and cafe I visited. 

Savannah, like most southern states, has a past steeped in racism, but they own it. The history is evident everywhere in Savanna, but instead of acting like it never happened they honor it. I was honored to discover Savannah’s history (one of my favorite subjects) and thankful that I was able to see it in person. I’m looking for more books on the true history of Savannah, so if you know of any please leave in the comments.

The way I like to visit a city is through food and culture and preferably on foot. Savannah is a walking city. The squares are to be explored on foot to stop, maybe take a seat, and take it all in. It’s easy to get around and I suggest not renting a car unless you plan to visit Tybee Island. I took a walking architectural tour of historic Savannah and I would do this tour again. I plan on visiting Savannah again this year and I can’t wait to explore it more. Savannah is home to the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), a premier art school in the U.S. The school has a museum that is definitely worth visiting. I loved exploring Savannah's streets, talking to the small shop owners, and eating the great food. 

I'm sure you are thinking; Julia where did you stay and what did you eat? Stay tuned. 

Savannah, I'll see you soon. 

This post is brought to you in collaboration with Savannah Tourism and Allegiant Air. All content, ideas, and words are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that allow me to create new and special content like this for JuliaConey.com.

Wheels Down: She Buys Car - Exploring Los Angeles Food in the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune

I had the opportunity to write for a new website dedicated to women and cars – She Buys Cars. I was headed to Los Angeles to do my version of a foodie tour. I wanted to visit the restaurants and shops I read about, but also needed a fun car to whip around the city in. L.A. is lots of driving and since I grew up in Houston it was okay. Driving all around the different areas didn’t bother me. I just wish their metered parking had an app. 

The Beetle Dune took me all around the Los Angeles area and here is a list of a few places I feasted. I'm headed back to California next month so stay tuned for more food and wine adventures. 

  1. In-n-Out Burger. Obviously.
  2. Animal. After years of hearing so much about this place I had to go. It didn’t disappoint and the wine list was everything I needed it to be – different, interesting, and varied.
  3. Domain LA Wine Shop. This shop has unique California wines that are hard to get in my area. I have been waiting for months to taste La Clarine Farm and it was all I wanted in a wine. Classic, elegant, great nose, easy to taste, and paired beautifully with seafood and chicken. More Wine. Less Attitude is their motto and it is evident in their wine selection and their staff. 
  4. SOL Mexican Cocina. SOL is Baja-inspired cuisine and it didn’t disappoint. I wanted a different take on Mexican cuisine and SOL gave me what I was looking for from the thin crispy tostadas, blackberry ginger margarita, and steak tacos.
  5. Huevos Rancheros at San Pedro Cafe. I’m a breakfast girl and it’s the one thing I miss living in D.C. They don’t have good huevos rancheros, migas, or chilaquiles. I decided to meet a friend for breakfast in San Pedro near the water and these gave me the sustenance I needed and enough fulfillment until my meal at Bestia.
  6. Bestia. I couldn’t get a reservation so I decided to have dinner at the bar right when they opened. It was worth the price of admission.
  7. Terroni. I went to Terroni based on a food blogging friend’s testimonial and I felt I was dropped in Italy. My goodness. Seriously.

Read my full review of the Volkswagen Beetle Dune here.

Volkswagen provided the Beetle Dune for review purposes. Opinions expressed are my own.

Ritz Paris, Finally Reopens

 Ritz Paris

Ritz Paris

I had read about the famous Ritz Paris years before I ever stepped foot in the legendary hotel. When I finally visited it was to go in and have one of the most expensive cocktails I ever had in my life. It was Hemingway's Bar and the head bartender Colin Field gave a detailed and storied history about it's most famous guest. I returned again in 2011 to celebrate my husband's birthday and Colin was there in all the bar's splendor. The rooms, as I was shown, were nice, but seemed a little dated.

After a near $450 million dollar and almost four-year renovation, the hotel is now open. Everything is new including plumbing and high-speed Wi-Fi (a must of any hotel these days). Later this year Chanel opens a spa in the hotel. I have a love relationship with their Sublimage line and I know it is going to be fabulous. I hope it is open when I return to Paris with friends in October.

UITAL Lifestyle Experience: A Weekend In Paris - Day 2 (Champagne Tour)

Avenue de Champagne

We started day two of the UITAL Lifestyle Experience early. Why? We had a day trip planned to Champagne-Ardenne, France, a two-hour journey by coach bus. This region is the home of champagne, the beverage. Visiting Champagne was the highlight for me of the trip, besides meeting and hanging with new travel friends. As a wine lover, champagne is a natural extension. It is wine, after all, made in a distinct way. The Champagne-Ardenne region in France is large and can’t be covered in one day so we chose Reims and Epernay as our curiosity starting point.

I have had the dreamed of visiting champagne for years. I wanted to see history, view the vines, and soak it all in. Most people don’t know if it’s not made in the Champagne region of France it cannot be called champagne. It’s sparkling wine, cava, and prosecco.

We left Paris super early on Saturday morning to make it to Reims for our appointment at Taittinger, a tour of their cellars, and a tasting. Travel is also learning and there was so much to learn. As a wine girl, it was great to see the cellars, to be among the bottles that aren’t ready to drink, and really learn the process of how champagne became champagne. I know some of it, but to be able to hear the history in Champagne was not lost on me. After Taittinger, we headed to see the Reims cathedral, which is similar in its gothic style to Notre Dame before we headed to the cutest champagne bar for lunch.

In Champagne, the large champagne houses are evident with the size of their buildings and cellars. I also enjoy small grower champagnes. I like to call them the underdogs of the champagne world. Our guide recommended we have lunch at C. Comme before we headed to our final tasting at Moët. We were definitely in for a treat.

The champagne tasting consisted of six champagnes – four whites and two rosés. Of course, when I’m in France, I have to have foie gras almost every day and a few of us paired the champagne with the foie gras, caviar, and an insanely super-sized cheese try. C. Comme is one of those places I want to sit for hours lingering over the champagne list, enjoying conversation, and wondering how to transport all the champagne back to my home. In my mind, I’m coming back next year and bringing my love with me. C. Comme has a shop in the basement to sit, sip, and pick your own champagne.

Our last tasting was scheduled for Moët & Chandon, another famous champagne houses in the world. Moët is also home to Dom Pérignon, the famous French Benedictine monk who helped put champagne on the map.  The Moët cellars contain over three million bottles of wine. Yes, rap that around your brain. On my bucket list is to have a formal sit-down dinner in the caves. I’m going to make this happen. Our last stop was the village of Hautvillers, to see where the famous monk is buried in a church and to view the vines that make grand cru champagne.

Champagne can be delicious with great flavor profiles and pair well with food or it can be cloying as a bad perfume. The key is to sip as much as you can and your palate will develop and change. It’s the best way to discover what you actually like. Champagne-like wine can be intimidating the way it’s presented to many people.

Although we didn’t have a long leisurely lunch like I would have loved, I enjoyed my time in Champagne and my curious nature enjoyed experiencing this with others who were just as curios as me. I realize I am a blessed woman and I don’t take any of it for granted. Cheers to good times with great people and a perfect UITAL Lifestyle Experience. Thank you Tanisha for helping to arrange a wonderful visit.

 

 

 

UITAL Lifestyle Experience: A Weekend in Paris - Day 1

UITAL Paris

It all started with a simple question.

“Why don’t you come to Paris with the group?
You love Paris and had to cancel your beauty tour this year due to the terrorist attacks from November and people's fears.
Come with us.”

This came from my friend Claire about a weekend in Paris with her upscale travel company. The group had planned to attend the Janet Jackson world tour before she canceled. As with everything, the party must go on, and the bubbles must flow on. I was hesitant. I am in the midst of a kitchen remodel due to a busted pipe and taking a weekend to jet set wasn’t on the agenda. Plus, that means I would have to relinquish some of my kitchen remodel control to the husband. Yeah right.

After mentioning it to him he said, “You should go.” Best. Husband. Ever. Well, you don’t have to tell this Francophile twice. Plans were made and in three weeks later I was leaving to visit Paris. I was a little hesitant because this would be the first trip after my surgery in November. I kept thinking who would help me put my carry-on in the overhead bin, would I be able to walk around all day and feel okay? I decided to go and not overdo it.

I arrived on Friday and hit the ground running. The best thing for me to do when I travel to Europe is not to go to sleep when I arrive even though I don’t sleep on planes. Yes, I’m going to be exhausted, but I can be exhausted in Paris. I arrive early in the morning and stay up all day. I go to be on European time and not any sooner. This way I can hit the ground running and not lose any time. I left the airport, grabbed an Uber and headed to the host hotel near Gare du Nord. I checked in and headed to a little brasserie for an omelet. No one makes omelets like the French. After a few café crèmes, an omelet, croissant, and good conversation it was time to assist and help the UITAL staff get ready for their first event.

When Up in the Air Life puts on an event it’s going to be special. We had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower and a group photo. Everyone received the cutest wine picnic cooler bag. I can’t wait to use it in DC for Jazz at the Sculpture Garden this summer. Later that night we all met for dinner at Rosemary, a restaurant I suggested. I keep a running Paris food document and it has been on the list for a year. It’s considered a gastropub and among the many bistros of Paris, it held it’s own. We were a large group, 40+ travelers and it’s very hard to find a restaurant that can accommodate that many people.

The food as with most French food is small portions full of flavor, texture, and contrast. I told Julien who helped organize the dinner I would be back in October for a friend’s birthday and planned to bring her there. I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, the way they went out of their way to accommodate such a large group, and how the night flowed effortlessly. Stay tuned for my recap of our time in Champagne, France.